Open Air Classrooms
Rabindranath Tagore was always in favor of open-air schools. He was of the opinion that learning which takes place in the midst of nature in open air helps increase the concentration power of children. Nature always has a way of calming minds which in turn leads to increased concentration. Students can feel the freedom despite being in an environment of formal education which in turn makes learning a process which they enjoy. Keeping this in mind, he started Shantiniketan in the year 1901, which was an open-air school. Sadly, no attempt was made to copy this model and learning continued to be confined in the four walls of the building.
In this pandemic when like everything else schools are also closed and classes are taking place in online mode, it is getting even more difficult for the students to cope up with coursework as the classroom has shrunk even further from four walls to a small screen of the mobile or laptop. In these difficult times, many schools are trying to implement different ideas which can provide education in a way which is safe for the children and teachers alike. One such method is the open-air classrooms.
Many states in India are trying to organize classes in open spaces where children can get together and learn or clear their doubts which they were not able to do in online mode. One such initiative is taken by Gujarat’s education department. Called the 𝘚𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘪 𝘚𝘩𝘪𝘬𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘯 (street education) initiative, it was launched in the last week of June 2021 for those children who are unable to take classes through online mode.
Teachers are holding classes for small groups of students in open spaces like a park, temple complexes etc. And though the initiative was meant for those students who were left out of the virtual learning programs for various reasons like network issues or unavailability of the smartphone due to financial problems, the rest of the students are also turning up for these classes. Recently, one such class was held in Naranpura area of Ahmedabad in a park. The teachers popped the whiteboard on the concrete benches of the park and taught small groups of children. The children were seen enjoying these open-air classes. Many people who were visiting these parks stopped to watch these classes.
These classes not only help students in their studies but integrates the subject with nature. Children are able to understand the practical aspects of learning. The nature also teaches them to be compassionate and mindful which helps them to be better human beings and better versions of themselves. The open-air classes make education deeply rooted in one’s surroundings which is very important in today’s time as people are drifting away from nature which is leading to different health and social issues. Another advantage of open-air classes is that it improves problem-solving skills of the students and makes them better team players.
The pandemic has turned the world upside down. Things have changed for better or for worse. Maybe this is one of such things which happened for good. Schools and governments should consider open-air schools as a way forward in the future when the pandemic gets over.
After more than a decade, the words of Tagore seem the most apt…
“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”